What happened to the USS Forrestal, while in the Gulf of Tonkin, July, 1967?
In July 1967, a devastating fire broke out on board the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. An electrical anomaly had caused the discharge of a Zuni rocket on the flight deck, triggering a chain-reaction of explosions that killed 134 sailors and injured 161. At the time, Forrestal was engaged in combat operations in the Gulf of Tonkin, during the Vietnam War. The ship survived, but with damage exceeding US$72 million (equivalent to $511 million today), not including the damage to aircraft. Future United States Senator John McCain and future four-star admiral and CINCPACFLT Ronald J. Zlatoper were among the survivors.
The fire left 134 men dead and 161 more injured. Many aircraft and a large amount of ordnance were jettisoned to prevent them from catching fire or exploding. Twenty-one aircraft also sustained enough damage from fire, explosions and salt water, to be stricken from naval inventory, including seven F-4B Phantom IIs and three RA-5C Vigilantes. The fire also revealed that Forrestal required a heavy duty, armored forklift for use in the emergency jettisoning of aircraft (particularly heavier types such as the RA-5C Vigilante) as well as heavy or damaged ordnance. Sailors had been forced to manually jettison numerous 250 and 500 lb bombs by rolling along the deck and off the side.